Internal Review of Research Grants

The Department currently has a policy in effect which encourages all faculty to submit their research grants to an internal peer review prior to final submission. The purpose of this policy has been to improve the success rate of the faculty in obtaining funding from MRC, NSERC, NIH, and other competitive sources. Although it is difficult to relate the availability of internal peer review to funding success rates, data from the Hospital for Sick Children (HSC) may be instructive. The data for part of 1995, show a 47% success rate for new MRC applications from HSC, vs. a nationwide rate of 18%. Renewals for MRC grants were funded at a rate of 61% for 1995-96 at HSC, vs. 50% overall. Data from The Toronto Hospital show an overall success rate of 24%. Significantly, MRC funding rates for both new and renewal grant applications have decreased over the past three years. Internal review of grants in the Department of Surgery will serve to improve the outcome of grant applications in an increasingly competitive funding environment. 

Investigators requiring a Departmental signature on their grants have been encouraged to obtain review from at least two sources through their Divisional offices or through a hospital-based research institute. Forms are available which simply indicate title, funding agency, and names of individuals who carried out the review. Currently, research institutes at HSC and Mount Sinai Hospital have strict policies requiring internal peer review prior to final submission. Grants cannot be signed at these institutes, except in extreme circumstances, unless prior internal review has been obtained. Approximately 60% of the grant applications signed by Dr. John Wedge have undergone peer-review.  

Principles Governing Development of the Departmental Policy on Internal Grant Review

  1.  Internal review improves the quality of grant submissions and hence, enhances the likelihood of funding in a peer-reviewed grant competition. Competition for peer-reviewed grants will continue to increase in the foreseeable future. 
  2. Due to the diverse nature of individuals within the Department, a highly rigid mechanism for review will be difficult to adhere to and may result in poor compliance by the faculty. 
  3. Both new and experienced investigators benefit from the process of prior review of their grant application. 
  4. The quality of the grant application as assessed by the Internal Review Committee should be a consideration when the applicant is being considered for allocation of Hospital or University resources.

Internal Peer Review Policy

  1. Prior peer review (internal or external) is a key factor in the successful competition for peer-review research grants. Internal peer review is required for all competitive grants applied for by Departmental members. Prior peer review is required of research proposals submitted for any competitive grant competitions, including hospital- and university-based competitions. Letters of intent to submit a research proposal do not require prior peer review. Prior peer review will be available, but not required, for non-competitive contract research proposals submitted to either industrial or governmental entities. 
  2. Hospital research institutes will be asked to require internal peer review of all Department members prior to institutional approval. 
  3. It is critical that new faculty appointees receive particular attention during the internal peer review process. Memoranda of agreement (MOA) should clearly specify the importance of peer review, particularly during the first three years following a staff appointment. One or more "research advisor(s)" should be identified in the MOA. These individuals should provide advice on the preparation and review of research proposals. 
  4. A history of successful internal grant reviews will be linked to accessibility of resources. For new faculty, this concept should be incorporated into the MOA, wherein a clear statement should indicate that resource allocation is contingent upon participation in this process. For established investigators, access to bridge funding or supplemental funds will be dependent on prior participation in the process.

Implementation of the Policy 

  1. The peer review process will be confidential and expeditious. A minimum of two reviews should be obtained prior to final grant preparation and submission. Reviews may be solicited from faculty within or outside of the University of Toronto system.
  2. An ad hoc committee at the Departmental level has bee established to facilitate internal peer review for new faculty and those investigators who have not obtained reviews from hospital- or division-based committees. The Department of Surgery Research Office (340-3105) will coordinate the distribution of grant proposals on the advice of the Director of Surgical Research. Grants for internal review must be submitted to the ad hoc committee at least three weeks prior to the grant deadline. The review will be completed within 10 days following receipt. Internal review committee deadlines will be published on a regular basis in the Departmental Newsletter.
  3. Oversight for the peer review process will be vested at the Departmental level, under the auspices of the Surgical Research Committee. Prior peer review of research grants will be included as part of the criteria for grading research in the annual faculty performance evaluations. The Research Committee will furnish the Department Chair with an annual report on all faculty submitting grants to the committee for internal peer review.
  4. An "Internal Grant Review" form (either institutional or Department of Surgery forms are acceptable) should be submitted along with the research proposal to the appropriate hospital- or university-based administration for signature. Copies of the completed form should be forwarded to Surgical Research and to the faculty member’s Division chair.
  5. Faculty should be prepared to submit a written petition to the Departmental Research Committee in the event grant proposals are submitted to the Chair for signature without prior peer review.

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